Learning another language is a path to another culture.


It can also be a complete waste of time, or at worst, incredibly boring.

Of course, you want your students to be in the first group.  How do you do that?

My answer is projects.

Project-Based-Learning is very effective, and I’ve been teaching with it for well over 15 years.

If you are Teaching English as a Foreign Language, there are many ways to do this, so I’ll give you an example.

This assumes your students have basic ability.  (If they do not, you’ll need to teach them some basics to get them started.)

Probably the most basic project you can do is an introduction.  You can have the students write a self-introduction letter to someone.  You can have students write an essay in which they introduce themselves, their family, their house, and their town.  You can also make this into a speech or even a short presentation.  Encourage the students to use pictures and so on.

For more advanced students, try something more challenging.  If the students are mature enough, or if you want to add some real-life learning to the mix, how about a group project?

For example, you might have the students do a group project about a country, or a tourist spot in a country that you might visit as a class.  You might have them choose a holiday from the country where the target language is used and talk about that.  For example, a group studying Hindu might do the Holi Festival in India.  If students are studying English, they might talk about a special holiday, with each group doing a different one from an English-speaking country.

The kinds of projects you can do is unlimited.  All you really need is creativity.

If you think your students need more help with the language, teach them the basics of the topic before you start the project.  You can also assign the project to get them motivated, then teach for half the class and let them work on the project the other half.

A couple of important points:

1.  Do not underestimate your students–they will teach themselves the words and grammar they need to use in the project.  Do not be one of those teachers that thinks students cannot learn unless you spoon-feed them everything.  That is silly and boring.

2.  Plan well.

A.You need to be specific in what you want them to do.  For example, it would be really easy for some of your students to spend pages talking about their favourite rock stars in their introduction, so you might want to specify what must be in the speech and what can be in the speech.

B.  Along with being specific, to keep the kids on track, you should give them deadlines.  This teaches them to be responsible and makes even giant projects more manageable by dividing them into reasonable steps.  For example, in the introduction, you can have a deadline for giving you a short topic list, a deadline for a rough draft, and a deadline for the final draft.

3.  Assessment is vital.  Project based learning is more than just using the language.  You can talk about their writing skills, logic in organization, presentation skills, speaking skills, and for group work, leadership and teamwork.  All of these skills are incredibly useful in the real world.  They should also be taken into account when evaluating them and giving them a score.

4.  Reflection is the key to improving your projects.  Assuming you are going to keep doing these projects every year, you will need to think about how to improve your instruction of them.  For example, if you found that the group presentation on Ireland talked way too much about leprechauns, you need to change the way you introduce the project, alter the guidelines and instructions, or guide the students into more serious areas.  With careful reflection, your students’ projects will improve every year.  Mine do.

There you have it.  Using projects in teaching English as a foreign language or any foreign language will engage your students much more, it is much more fun and rewarding to you, and the students will learn more, and more useful skills, than you can normally teach in any classroom.